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Santa Rosa Pot Club Denied By County Supervisors

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A divided board of Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday rejected a permit for Santa Rosa Avenue medical marijuana dispensary, citing a rural residential neighborhood and school bus stop.

The 3-2 preliminary voteoverruled the county planning commission decision and the recommendation of couty planning staff.

Opposition to the application by Republic Health Center was led by board chairwoman Shirlee Zane and supported by supervisors David Rabbitt and Valerie Brown. They signalled their intent to make the ordinances governing dispensaries stricter and offer less room for interpretation.

"The proliferation of dispensaries concentrated in one area is problematic to me," said Zane, whose district includes the proposed site at 4170 Santa Rosa Avenue.

Three dispensaries are from one and five miles from the property, distances that comply with current county ordinances.

Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Mike McGuire voted to approve the permit and commended the applicant, Windsor resident Randy Dale, whom McGuire said "operated by the book, worked within the rules established by the county."

"When it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries, this board has seen its share of drama," McGuire said. "In too many instances cowboy operators have put up a shingle and started."

Dale was perhaps the first to wait to open until fully permitted. The board should make it possible for professional operators to open, and close those who flaunt the law, McGuire said.

"I'm absolutely shocked," said Dale after the board's straw vote. "I complied with every single ordinance."

Dale and four other medical marijuana patients began a permit process last August at the site on the southern end of Santa Rosa Avenue in a largely industrial area. The group pooled more than $60,000 for permit applications, rent and improvements to the property, including landscaping, paving the parking lot, removing junk and working in the building's interior.

The building is more than 200 feet from the houses abutting the property because of a large undeveloped open space on the property, Dale said to the board.

Zoning ordinances state that medical cannabis dispensaries shouldn't be within 100 feet of a residence, however supervisors, planning staff and Dale disagreed over whether the distance measured should be between property lines or buildings. The rules also allow for the zoning board to make exceptions.

Carrillo said he believed the distance met "the essence of what was intended by the ordinance."

At least four other permitted dispensaries are within 100 feet of homes because driveways and fences provided adequate physical separation, county planner Steve Padovan said.

"We look at each one and decide," Padovan said.

The business would be closed when children meet the bus at the corner of Santa Rosa and Horn avenues, but would be open when children are dropped off at about 2:30 p.m.

The zoning board found the school bus stop was only briefly occupied by students and the dispensary's proximity to the stop didn't violate county ordinances, Padovan said.

"If you look at a place where children might see (dispensaries), there'd be almost no places you could pick," Padovan said.

No sidewalk runs past an opening in the 6-foot fence that surrounds the property and the building will have no signage indicating it will be a dispensary, Dale said.

One resident spoke against the project at the public hearing. Ed Clites said the 130 feet between the dispensary's property line and his home isn't far enough.

If the dispensary opens, "I will no longer allow my 8-year-old child to ride her bike down the street. I will no longer allow my three children to take the dog to Roberts Lake," said Clites, president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association.

Republic Health Center planned to serve more than 30 patients a day in a 1,561 square foot commercial building from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The company said it hire three fulltime and three part time employees plus private security staff and install motion-sensing lights and closed-circuit cameras to monitor the parking lot, main entry and the retail area of the office.

Dale said his group will seek a Writ of Mandamus from a Sonoma County Superior Court judge to reverse the board's decision, which will come to a final vote June 12.

"We will get the court to decide based on the ordinances and not based on personal opinions," Dale said.

The board in February voted to limit the number of dispensaries in unincorporated Sonoma County to nine. Six dispensaries are permitted and Republic Health Center was among three others pending approval.

"The struggle we face is what is the appropriate location of these dispensaries," Carrillo said.

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Source: pressdemocrat.com
Author: Julie Johnson
Contact: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/99999999/MULTIMEDIA/284251681
Website: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/articl...ta-Rosa-pot-club-denied-by-county-supervisors
 
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